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Big Goals Becoming Tarasenko's Forte

by Chris Pinkert / St. Louis Blues

ST. LOUIS - Vladimir Tarasenko has scored eight goals over his last eight home games, yet, his teammates aren’t all that surprised.

“I see how good he is in practice every day, so I’m not surprised,” said new linemate Magnus Paajarvi. “But it still amazes me with how good of a shot he has. His release is ridiculous. It’s awesome to have it on the team, that’s for sure.”

With his team in desperate need of some offense and trailing 1-0 Tuesday against the Coyotes, Tarasenko stepped up with a big goal to spark a 4-1 win on Tuesday night.

And big goals is pretty much what he does.

“I saw only half our bench get up when he was coming in on goal (Tuesday),” Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They just knew he was going to score. It’s pretty special.

“He’s amazing to me because he scores big goals. They’re important goals,” Hitchcock added. “We’re playing OK or we’re down, and guess who pops his head up? It’s him. You can be a good player, score goals and get points in the League, but when you have the level of important goals he gets, that helps our team so much. Some people are just built that way. They’re not afraid of the stage, afraid of the time or the event. He’s one of those guys.”

With 16 goals this season, Tarasenko ranks third in the NHL scoring race (trailing only Dallas’ Jamie Benn and Chicago’s Patrick Kane).

Surprisingly, Tarasenko has yet to score against the Philadelphia Flyers, who the Blues will host tonight at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX). But, it’s probably only a matter of time.

“He’s such a good player,” Paul Stastny said. “He’s playing well right now, whether it’s at home or on the road. When he’s open, you’re going to go to him more than the other guy because he’s a threat every time.”

WIN ONE FOR ELLS

Hitchcock said it’s Brian Elliott’s turn to start tonight, so he’ll be between the pipes against the Flyers.

In his last five appearances, Elliott has a 1.60 goals-against average and a .942 save-percentage, yet has recording a win, going 0-2-1 in those games. But he’s not hanging his head.

“He’s upbeat every day and he smiles,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “Him and Jake have a great thing going. They help each other a lot and support each other. When he comes in, he’s going to give his best. He’s done that every time he’s played.”

“Our goalies have been incredible during the first part of the season, and they’ve helped us a lot to be where we are,” Tarasenko added. “We need to fight for Ells tonight.”

Elliott is 6-3-0 in his career against Philadelphia, posting a 2.12 goals-against average and a .930 save-percentage.

PROJECTED LINES

Hitchcock said there would be no lineup changes tonight, except for the goalie.

Forwards
Paajarvi - Stastny - Tarasenko
Steen - Backes - Brouwer
Fabbri - Lehtera - Jaskin
Upshall - Brodziak - Reaves

Defense
Bouwmeester - Pietrangelo
Lindbohm - Shattenkirk
Gunnarsson - Parayko

Goalie
Elliott

BLUE NOTES

The Blues have won four consecutive games against the Flyers at Scottrade Center by a combined score of 6-1 (not including shootout goals). Three of those four wins came via shutouts (Chris Mason, Ryan Miller and Brian Elliott). The Flyers’ last win at Scottrade Center was Dec. 17, 2005. The Flyers haven’t scored a goal at Scottrade Center in 147 minutes 25 goals, and that includes going 0-for-4 in two shootouts.

The Flyers are 11-11-6 this season and average just two goals per game, but Hitchcock said he still expects a tough game: “Everybody knows it’s going to be two teams where the group of forwards really work hard, really put a lot of pressure on you. We’ve just got to be ready for it,” Hitchcock said. “When you play Philadelphia, you just can’t take shifts off… They’re back on their game, especially their fore-checking game. We just have to be prepared.”

David Backes recorded his 2,000th hit Tuesday vs. Arizona. Since 2006-07, he is one of just two players (the other is LA’s Dustin Brown) to log over 2,000 hits and 400 points.

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